Over the next three months, more than 500 school professionals in Jamaica’s 177 secondary institutions will undergo mental health training under the Government’s School Mental Health Literacy Programme.
The $10-million Ministry of Health and Wellness, and Ministry of Education and Youth, initiative, will allow trained educators, school nurses, and guidance counselors to administer “mental health first aid” to the 21,000 grade-nine students in Jamaica who are being targeted.
The program aims to create a curriculum on how to appropriately respond to students’ mental health challenges and conditions.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, while addressing the launch of the program said “school is fertile soil for developing good habits as well as for bad habits to be promulgated. So, it is natural that we have to start there.”
He added that although mental health spans all spheres of society, special focus must be given to the youth.
“This Government’s School Mental Health Literacy Programme is to outline very specific types of intervention and mainstreams those interventions. We can’t afford anymore to intervene only based on circumstances and events, as opposed to developing an intervention.
So, what this [program] is intended to do is to look at mental health in a way that enhances the holistic being, [and] we have to work on it. We don’t just intervene to cure but we provide mental health support, and that’s what’s going to happen at the level of the schools,” the minister stated.
Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Judith Leiba Thomas, told JIS News that the program will, hopefully, yield a closer collaboration between the schools and the Health Ministry’s child guidance clinics in 11 hospitals and health centers throughout Jamaica and target children who have psychological and emotional issues.